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Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña Colonial Fortress, Havana . Cuba

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  • Carretera de La Cabana, Eastern Havana, Havana City. Cuba
  • Destination: Havana
  • Open: 3,4,5,6,7
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Restablished the Hispanic dominance in Havana, one of the first dispositions of the king Carlos III, with regard to the protection of the city, was the construction of a colossal fortification, the largest erected until then, in America, on “La Cabaña’s” hill. The project, undertaken by Silvestre Abarca, with plans by two French engineers, was finished in eleven years, between 1763-1774. Simultaneously, " El Príncipe” and “ Atarés” Castles.

La Cabaña, with its 750 meters long and ten hectares of surface, was considered as the summit of the fortification system of the Spanish military constructions and its eclectic style is given by the influence that received from the best of the military engineering of the time, when taking from France the curves flanks, the lobes of the bastions, and the external works, from Italy the ramparts and from Holland the hydraulic works. The combination of all these elements guaranteed its functionality, modernity and dynamics, when being adapted to the land, in function of the defensive necessities of preserving the city before a terrestrial attack from the east.

The crown-shaped polygon that conforms this fortress, is surrounded by a deep dry moat by it’s eat side and high wall panels facing the channel. It has a complex defensive structure where are integrated, with robustness and harmony, ramparts, tenails, caponiers, flanked ravelins, bunkers and barracks, with interior street that give access to the beautiful arms’ square, focal point of this military colonial enclave.

Cabaña fortressLa Cabaña‘s garrison had, toward 1859, around 1300 men that could be increased to 6000 in the event of war. It also had 120 brass cannons and howitzers of diverse calibres. For the capacity of storage of reservoirs and victuals, it could resist more than a year of blockade, without receiving supplies from the exterior.

In spite of its extraordinary warlike gifts, the “San Carlos de la Cabaña” fortress, never saw action. It is affirmed that its single presence, was enough to discourage the intents of assaulting Havana again.

It is told that the famous Antonelli said of La Cabaña hills that the one in control of them would own Havana. Those hills were the property of Agustín de Sotolongo, who gave them for free for the construction of the fortress. The capture of this area by the English, even though El Morro resisted, doubtlessly hastened the downfall of the Spanish. The name La Cabaña (The Hut) comes from some huts built in the area. The name of San Carlos comes from the king Carlos III. He requested a spyglass, headed for a balcony of the palace and responded to the question of some visitors, about what he wanted to see.
He claimed: “The Cabaña, such a valuable work, should be spotted from Madrid”.

Cabaña fortressIn the 18th century a cannon shot used to be fired to warn the townsfolk that the gates of the city were about to open or close. In the beginning, the shot was fired from a ship of the Fleet and then from La Cabaña. The scheduled time for the shot has changed over time. Nowadays the inhabitants of the area surrounding the bay can hear every day at 9:00 pm a shot fired by one of the several Spanish guns that the castle has kept since the 18th century. It remains as a ceremony of a deep historical meaning.

This fortress, along with the Three Morro Kings Fortress comprises the Military Morro -Cabaña Park, the largest museum in the country. It took in the main military bodies of the Spanish crown and served as a prison to the countless patriots of the war for independence in the last century where some of them were also shot.

The fortress holds the most important ancient weapon collection of the country: a catapult and a mediaeval ariet natural size; the snake shape swords from southern Asia; the Indian katar, the dreadful three blades dagger; the worshipped samurai’s katanas, the Islamic decorated rifles and the complete battery of cannons from the 18th Century made in Sevilla.

cabaña fortressThe Cabaña was venue to the headquarters of Ernesto Che Guevara during the first months after the triumph of the revolution in 1959. There is an exhibition of his personal objects and photos at the house where he settled.

The distinctive touch of this place comes with the most typical of Havana traditions: The Cannon Shot Ceremony, a ceremony taking place every night starting 20:30.

San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, located in the municipality of East Havana, is included in the system of fortresses that along with the Old Havana was declared by the UNESCO as World Heritage

Mapa de Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña is located in Havana

Capital of Cuba and the country's administrative, political, cultural and scientific center, it is also the capital of two provinces: City of Havana and Havana. Though only around 280 square miles (727 square kilometers) in size-0.65 percent of the archipelago's total area.

The Old Havana and system of forts led UNESCO to declare it a part of world heritage in 1982. Founded on its present site in 1519, the settlement of San Cristobal de La Habana prospered mainly due to its bay, which was a natural port of call for ships sailing to and from the New World. Starting in 1634, because of its strategic location, San Cristobal de La Habana was considered the key to the New World-as attested to by royal letters patent-and the main defense of the West Indies.

The Cuban capital consists of an immense number of buildings in a wide range of architectural styles, built in the course of nearly five centuries. These styles range from the pre-baroque to the baroque, neo-Gothic, neoclassical, eclectic, art noveau and art-deco, to the modern.

Alejo Carpentier, one of Cuba's most famous authors, called it "the city of columns" and focused attention on its streets, which he considered a perennially rich show of life, humanity and contrasts that was bound to entertain any observer.

Over 14 kilometers of excellent beaches lie to the east of the Cuban capital. To the south, a green belt contributes to a healthful atmosphere.

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Review about Colonial Fortress: Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña
Excellent Rop

San Carlos de la Cabana fortress
The San Carlos de la Cabana fortress is located to the east of Havana City and is the biggest fortress in America. The San Carlos de la Cabana fortress or La Cabana was built by King Carlos III, one of the Spanish kings in the late eighteenth century. The fortress derives the first part of its name, from the king who commissioned its construction and the latter half of its name came into being as a result of a few houses or huts that were in the vicinity of the fortress, as it was being constructed. San Carlos fortress La Cabana was constructed over a period of eleven years by Silvestre Abarca, one of Spain’s’ most well known architects of the time, with the assistance of two French engineers. The San Carlos de la Cabana cost fourteen million euros to construct and is considered to be a fine example of some of the finest European military implementations. The fortress boasts a unique hydraulic system designed to resemble the curved flanks favoured by the French at that time. The fortress also features a dry moat and high walls and a garrison that could, if the need arose, hold up to six thousand men at a time. Adapting these various elements meant that the San Carlos de la Cabana fortress was the ultimate in functionality, modernity and every other dynamic that plays a role in the course of battle; it is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Although the fortress has never really been a part of a war, it is still being put to use. In the eighteenth century to warn people, a shot was fired from the fortress to warn people when the city gates were opening or closing. This tradition is maintained even today, with a shot being fired every night at nine p.m. The fortress is home to a stunning array of weapons from all across the world and has also served as Che Guevara’s headquarters for a period in 1959.

Average Wikumj

“Over-rated ”
We went to the canon ceremony which takes place every night at 9pm, which many of the guidebooks recommend. In truth the ceremony was a bit boring with a long slow build up and then the canon is fired and its over after 5 seconds. I'm surprised by how popular this event is, hundreds of people were there on the... More 

Average Mike M

“Nothing special ”
After seeing a lot of castles and fortresses in Europe, nothing special here... But the view on Havana is wonderful, you can see Old Havan, Parque Central and Vedado with the Malecon!

Very good Rob R R

“Havana's Great Castle ”
This is a huge castle built to defend the entrance to Havana harbour, and shows the classic Spanish design for such fortifications.

Very good Pedro999

“Big sprawling castle ”
We came in the off-season - no one here except staff. Huge grounds, great views of the city. Allow at least an hour and be prepared for some walking. A few exhibits of armour, weaponry. Good access from here to the nearby Christ statue and Casa Blanca ferry.

Very good eleni31

“Worth a visit! ”
If you are in Havana visit it. Every night at 9 there is the canon ceremony, the castle is beautiful and you have a great view of Havana!

Very good OxfordTraveller888

“The 9pm Cannon Ceremony is missed by most tourists, but very popular with Cubans ”
Located on the other side of thr harbour to Havasna City. The fort is the largest in the Americas and was never attacked or damaged. One of the best tourist spectacles in Havana is the 9pm Cannon Ceremony. This is a great Havana tradition, and signified that it was 9pm and all of the city gates were closing. The young... More 

Excellent Breakfastlover23

“Cañonazo ”
Really enjoyed the Cañonazo and historical reenactment of the cannon shooting ceremony. Spend the additional 2 pesos to enjoy the view sitting down with a complimentary mojito.

Excellent gandhy2014

“Guns and Walls ”
After Havana were return to Spanish dominion by the British in 1763, one of the priorities was fortifier the hill where this fortress stands today and which was the place that decided the Spanish defeat a year before, taken in account its privileged position. During eleven years the Spanish crown worked on the issue and in 1774 the new fortress... More 

Excellent 1espresso

“Great Central Spot, LOTS TO SEE ”
We were very luck to be upgraded to the Hotel San Felipe located on this square, there is a massive 15th century convent on this square , which is a must see as well as all the priceless church artifacts of solid gold and silver 500 years old. You are allowed to go up into the belltower which is amazing,... More 

Excellent Joost N

“Nice fortress ”
Besides the very bureaucratic entrance tickets system (at the moment we were there, the electricity did not worked, and we had to wait for more than half an hour..), this fortress is beautiful. It is big, you can have a stroll around, and we saw the fantastic view with sunset. Every night from 9 pm you can see the canonball... More 

Excellent SaltLifeAdventurer

“Great history, exibits are good, great exercise. ”
If you are allergic to walking and exercise then you may not want to explore here, but if that does not hinder you, then this is the place to tour. Great views of Havana, great history lesson and more.

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